Aviation

This train carries millions of people a year. Why is it still running on Windows 2000?

DFW Airport Skylink train to get $42 million makeover

DFW Airport's Skylink people mover still uses Microsoft Windows 2000 software. But the train system, which opened in 2005, is about to get $42 million in improvements.
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DFW Airport's Skylink people mover still uses Microsoft Windows 2000 software. But the train system, which opened in 2005, is about to get $42 million in improvements.

Today, would you ride on a train powered by Windows 2000?

If you are among the millions of people who use DFW Airport’s Skylink system each year, you already have.

The airport’s elevated people mover train system, which opened in 2005, still operates on the Microsoft Windows 2000 operating software that was installed during construction.

When DFW Airport unveiled Skylink, it was heralded as cutting edge, with modern train cars featuring plenty of standing room and level boarding that makes it easy for passengers with strollers, wheelchairs or rolling luggage.

Now, Skylink needs a $42 million upgrade, mostly involving the train system’s computer software.

“It is a Windows 2000-based system,” Tammy Huddleston, DFW Airport vice president of energy, transportation and asset management, told the airport board during its April meeting.

She added that, after 15 years of operations, “the brains of the system, like any electronics, is approaching end-of-life.”

Skylink is on the secured side of the airport, and offers travelers a way to navigate the airport’s five passenger terminals typically with a two- to five-minute train ride — rather than a walk that could take 15 minutes or longer. Each terminal features two Skylink stations, so customers inside the airport are usually no more than a few hundred feet from the nearest platform.

The DFW Airport board last week unanimously approved three items providing a total of up to $41.8 million for Skylink.

The largest item was a $34.7 million contract with Bombardier Transportation USA of Pittsburgh to replace the automatic train control computer system. The three-year contract begins in May. The system will include a simulator that can be used to train Skylink operators for emergency scenarios.

Another item was an amendment to an existing contract with Bombardier for $4.8 million, for operations and maintenance.

A third item approved by the board was a contract with Grand Prairie-based Lee + Elliott Inc., in the amount of $2.2 million for Skylink consulting services.

The contracts with Bombardier were not competitively bid because the company is considered a “single source” supplier of the technology used in Skylink, airport officials said.

Sean Donohue, DFW Airport chief executive officer, told the airport board the nearly $42 million upgrade was critical to keep the trains running.

“Skylink is in many ways the guts of how this airport works as a connecting hub,” Donohue said.

Gordon Dickson joined the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997. He is passionate about hard news reporting, and his beats include transportation, growth, urban planning, aviation, real estate, jobs, business trends. He is originally from El Paso, and loves food, soccer and long drives.
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